I know I'm not the only one to have experienced this, but sometimes it feels as though I am. Have you ever read or listened to a story you've read or listened to dozens of times before, only to be struck by some small detail that you overlooked every other time you'd thought about it? Sometimes it's something that's actually in the story. Sometimes it's something "between the lines."
In my case, it was the latter, and the story was that of Noah's Ark. I can't tell you how many times I've looked it up in my Bible or listened to someone read it aloud or heard/read a summary. At least once a year, at the very minimum, I'd guess, and probably more often than that.
But when I heard a sermon on the subject of Noah recently, the focus was not on the man's actions before or during the Flood, but rather afterward, and that made me think about a facet of the story that I'd never paid any attention to before.
Knowing it was going to happen didn't make it any easier to bear. The weight was heavy on him, as though he alone were responsible for it all. Oh, he had his wife to help him, and his sons were good men, but he suspected they worked out of a respect to him, and no devotion to an unseen god. He had been told the Flood would come, and yet in spite of a century spent preparing for it, he hadn't been ready.
He still remembered the frantic hammering of fist and club against the thick walls of the Ark, the slap of water as the Flood rose around them, the screams and shouts, pleas for mercy and curses on his family. They had been silenced in the end, drowned out by the storm in so many ways that to the earth, none of them still existed. Yet he still found them.
Buried in the mud, stuck among the rocks, tangled in the roots of fledgling trees, the stained and splintered bones of a hundred thousand men and their families and herds. Most were unidentifiable, and for that he was grateful, but every now and then....
A root poked shyly from the earth at his feet, peeping up at him like a demure maiden, and diving back into the soil only a hand span from where it emerged. It threaded through the left eye socket of a small human skull, toothless and stained red-brown by the clay, recently uncovered by the morning rains. Had it been a child? Had they really deserved this kind of end? Why did they, and not he, when his thoughts were so selfish and unforgiving every time he looked at Ham?
Noah inhaled the scent of moist earth and sun-warmed mud, then stood with a creak and pop in his knees. The vineyard was healthy. And next year, he would have grapes, God willing. The year he had more fruit than nightmares would be a blessed year indeed.